Posted by  Dylan Jones  Published on  20 Aug 2013
  • Data Strategy

Issues like poor data quality can be caused by a multitude of factors. Bad application design, dirty data supplied from external sources, finger flubs at data entry, faulty code during data migration or integration – the list is endless.

Despite all these common issues perhaps the biggest failing is in the lack of awareness that knowledge workers possess of data and how good data benefits the business. If unchecked, this lack of awareness can lead to a poor data culture and a general apathy towards creating high quality information assets within the organization.

Benchmarking your data culture

The first step in improving your culture towards data, even if it’s just in your own small team initially, is to get some feedback from knowledge workers and management alike.

  • Create some simple questions, for example:
  • Are you being given sufficient time to correct mistakes in data?
  • Do you understand the correct process for resolving data problems?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of how the data you create is used across the organization

Make the questions easy to read, free of jargon and aimed at the user community. Place them in an anonymous survey tool ( is a good option) and get your teams to respond, but make sure people know the survey is anonymous, you need frank responses.

If you can, try and group your questions around three main areas:

  • Knowledge
  • Perceptions
  • Behavior

For example, do your workers have the knowledge required to create great data? What do they perceive as the problems and attitudes of management? How do they behave when presented with issues? These three simple categories will help you get some structure and segmentation going for your survey.

Once you have gathered your survey data, analyze the results. Where are you struggling? If this is the first time completing this type of survey you’ll no doubt find issues across the board, so perhaps the easiest place to start is knowledge. What are the gaps between the awareness and skills your workers have right now? What can you remedy easily?

In one organization, I worked with a team of data entry workers who lacked motivation and interest in data, to them it was a boring, menial task.

We introduced data quality training and they devoured every course. They soon became data ambassadors and custodians, proud of their new found status. League stats were created to show how good our data was becoming and a sense of pride filled the team.

Simply by injecting a little bit of knowledge into the team caused huge changes to behavior and perception of data.

All the technology in the world can’t change a data culture, it has to be nurtured organically. If you really want to create world-class data, you need a world-class data culture.